By Paul Dottino
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The Giants (1-6) obviously feel better about themselves after ending their season-opening losing streak on Monday against the Minnesota Vikings.
Still, coach Tom Coughlin’s team has lost eight consecutive road games bridging to last season, and must realize that a loss to the Philadelphia Eagles (3-4) — especially one in the division and one that would give the Eagles a series sweep — would be fatal to any flickering hopes that the Giants have to save their season.
The Eagles, meanwhile, have lost nine straight at home — dating to last season — and hope to post a repeat result of their 36-21 road victory over the Giants in Week 5.
Here are three key matchups to look for in the game:
1) Giants MLB Jon Beason vs. Eagles RB LeSean McCoy and QB Michael Vick: Beason has topped the defense in tackles in both of his starts, compiling 21 total takedowns. He led the team’s attack on the Vikings’ Adrian Peterson (13 rushes for 28 yards), posting five of his nine tackles against the superstar running back. Beason’s instincts for the ball as well as his mobility will be tested by the Eagles. McCoy, an outstanding cut-back runner, leads the NFL with 685 rushing yards and 952 yards from scrimmage. Ironically, he ran for just 46 yards on 20 carries against the Giants in Week 5, when the Giants used Keith Rivers, Spencer Paysinger and safety Will Hill (11 tackles in Week 5) as their linebackers.
Vick, who has missed the past 2 1/2 games since tweaking his hamstring before halftime in that meeting, returns. He ripped the Giants for 79 yards on seven carries, including a 34-yard burst. How much will he be inclined to run after the injury? Usually, Vick’s most dangerous scrambles against the Giants are between the hash marks — which is where Beason now roams.
2) Giants CB Prince Amukamara vs. Eagles WR DeSean Jackson: Jackson sliced the Giants in Week 5 to the tune of 172 yards and a touchdown on seven catches. He worked against Trumaine McBride in the first half, snaring three passes for 83 yards — highlighted by a 56-yard post pattern.
Amukamara picked him up in the middle of the second half. Jackson is one of Vick’s preferred targets and combined for less than 100 yards while QB Nick Foles connected with WR Riley Cooper for more than 200 yards over the past two games.
3) Giants RBs Peyton Hillis and Michael Cox vs. Eagles blitz package: Philadelphia registered three hits on Eli Manning in Week 5, including one sack. But they have since attempted to improve on the NFL’s lowest-rated defense (412.7 yards per game) by altering their blitz package. The Eagles have just 15 sacks this season, including two last week against Dallas.
Given that Hillis arrived last week and Cox, a rookie, hasn’t digested the complete playbook, it’s likely that the Eagles will test them by sending a lot of extra pressure, and the running backs better be able to pick them up. And why not? Of Manning’s 15 interceptions, nine came when he was under duress.
PREDICTION: Giants 27, Eagles 24
PREDICTION RECORD vs. THE SPREAD: 5-2
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